RSI Conference Report

Local 199 Health and Safety Committee – March Report

RSI 2018 Toronto Conference

On Wednesday February 28, 2018 Edward Steers and Taylor Dempster attended the 19th Annual Repetitive Strain Injury Conference in Toronto to gain a better understanding of RSI issues and strategies for addressing these issues. We heard many knowledgeable speakers who lead great discussions on many topics such as:

David Mijatovic, an Ergonomist with OHCOW discussed how anyone in Ontario can consult with them for an assessment, but they are currently experiencing a one-year patient backlog, and a 6-month backlog for workplace consultations. He did mention medical consultations work best when patients have all diagnostic tests done before a consultation, and how important it is to push your Dr. for additional tests when necessary. One comment we heard later while discussing WSIB appeals is how the workplace does not control information and reports from OHCOW – Employers prefer to use for-profit consultants to control information. This is one reason why it is so difficult to get an employer to agree to invite OHCOW into a workplace.

Allan Cantor of Cantor Access, an accommodation specialist gave us a great definition of accommodation: The art & science of treating people differently – the process of tailoring work to meet the needs of the individual – the ongoing process to identify, remove and minimize barriers in the work environment and in the method of doing work. Key points discussed were; strategies that support accommodation also support prevention of RSIs, and help keep RSI awareness on the radar; to problem solve creatively by varying postures, methods and the use of appropriate tools; support training and retraining, understanding that training takes time; be willing to accept that there may be no panaceas or remedies that will solve all problems.

Dave Lundy from OPSUE discussed issues with the LCBO; where they have some 140,000 members – 1/3 of them PT, how their checkout stations are their biggest cause of RSI’s because they have zero ergonomic design, how they have some 650 stations in the province now and they say they can’t afford to change them. They have a provincial JHSC and are in a tough fight.

Willie Noiles, President of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups discussed the OFL Workers Comp is a Right campaign currently underway to pressure the Ontario government to change legislation for 3 key demands; The end of “Deeming” which is a practice WSIB uses to cut benefits when they decide a permanently disabled worker could take a minimum wage job, even if the worker is medically unable to do the work, or find a job. This is even more problematic when increases in minimum wage further reduces benefits; Listen to our Doctors findings which are often ignored by WSIB in favour of board funded clinics and reports from private medical consultants who never meet the worker, who often is sent back to work too early risking re-injury; Stop cutting benefits based on pre-existing conditions that may have nothing to with present injury.

Petitions are being read in legislature – I will leave some here at Local 199 to forward to Wayne Gates

Catherine Brookman – CRE-MSD Universitry of Waterloo Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders – discussed colleague Jack Callahan, an expert in spinal research and their case based studies. The Center offers downloadable resources, webinars, position papers (Catherine reads and edits)

Regarding trends currently toward standing desks, the center found a need to balance time between standing and sitting, how intermittent sitting has an immediate effect on metabolic factors, how equal amounts benefit as much as possible, more beneficial than sitting all day and then exercising for an hour or more. I intend to do more research on this topic to support the agreement for more chairs on the assembly line.

Panel Discussion: – Dealing with WSIB – Stress and Strategies

Terry Scratch from OPSUE discussed how WSIB has a habit of putting new and inexperienced adjudicators at the front gate who use barriers to deny claims that then go to appeal which can average 3-5 years. Barriers such as pre-existing conditions or hobbies like hockey, baseball or golf and how they will focus on 4 hours of golf instead of 40 hours of work as the cause of an injury. He discussed how WSIB will accept what the employer states on a Physical Demands Analysis (PDA) of a job. How statements are accepted as fact, such as how repetition would not cause injury to an average worker as in “look at all these other people, they’re not hurting”.

For us, probably the most relevant discussion came from Chris Mcdougall – the Unifor WSIB Rep for Local 707 at Ford in Oakville who stressed how important it is to establish eligibility at the first step, in the early stages of the claim process. How important it is to listen to the worker to determine what the problem is; to put yourself in their shoes to determine what happened to cause their injury; to paint a picture to help the WSIB rep understand the issue even if that means attaching 8-10 type written pages to a form 6; whatever is necessary to establish a claim and get the worker allowed loss of wages.

For this reason, Taylor Dempster, Mike Pagano and myself, have asked for a meeting with Dave Demarco and Greg Brady on Monday March 26 at the Hall to discuss steps we can take in the plant, in the early stages to help facilitate a more positive claim experience for our members dealing with WSIB.

In Solidarity,
Edward Steers